Here’s how important it is to work with biographies as a memory aid

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Biography work is an important part of caring for dementia patients. Using photos, objects or records to bring back old memories. This can stimulate communication and memory and enhance quality of life.

Biography work: bringing the past to life

Memory care is of utmost importance for people with dementia. They have a wealth of experience, but they can no longer access it easily. Pictures, stories, objects, letters and other things facilitate the memory. Often, you’ll see the person really blossom and an exchange go well when you use elements from their bio. With the right "anchors" from biography work, you can help people with dementia retain their identity and self-image longer, better integrate them into a social fabric and maintain their communicative abilities. The important thing here is to know and avoid painful life issues.

Ideas for biography work

Very different things can become occasions for conversation or positive memory moments, for example:

  • Personal photos
  • Old postcards of where the person lived or other significant places
  • Objects from daily use of earlier decades
  • Foods that were commonly used in the past and/or are familiar from childhood
  • Toys (either from personal possessions or typical toys of decades past)
  • old letters, testimonies or other written memories
  • Music that means something to the person or that reminds them of specific times and occasions (for example, Christmas carols, children’s songs, church songs, folk songs)
  • nursery rhymes and proverbs
  • Items from a former job or hobby, for example, a sewing machine, a potato masher, or a screwdriver
  • Religious symbols
  • typical scents of past times, for example cologne

You can use individual items or put together a real memory suitcase that can be used in different ways over and over again. You can also decorate the room with memories from the biography, so that the person with dementia can also access them alone.

Biographies as a basis for personal care

Beyond memory care, biography work is important for another reason: the more caregivers know about a person, the more personalized and individualized they can be with them. Especially for people who can no longer express themselves well, this is of the utmost importance. Now it comes down to what you know from before: what does she/he like, what does she/he dislike? What life situations did she/he describe as particularly significant? What were personal interests and what was the reality of life like in earlier times? With this information, it is easier to figure out what actions can be taken to improve the quality of life.

Beware: limitations of memory care

If you’re using biographical elements for memory keeping, there are a few things to keep in mind: There are very painful experiences in most people’s lives that they are reluctant to remember. War experiences and experiences of violence in particular should not be "brought up" unnecessarily. Sensitive observation is important to notice and address conflicts in a timely manner.

Talking photo album

Want to tell about your last vacation or share a memory? Record a voice message for each photo with the talking photo album. How to give joy to your loved one with dementia! Read more

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